| Tales from the Woods
|Nandrin - Merlin Works 4.0 testride Two
Ride Stats : 33.8K and 640 heightmeters in 2h09minsHill Factor : 19
I wanted to test the Merlin in some more challenging terrain so I went
to Nandrin. This is an area I know very well and it offers some steep
climbs and tricky downhills. I set out at the little church of Scry. I
did not change any of the bikes' settings because I was quite pleased
with the way the suspension behaved. From the outset, I was on a
false-flat gravel road, with some bigger stones protruding. When I ride
a hardtail, this is one section where I have to get out of the saddle a
couple of times to avoid being hammered in the back. Well, as was to be
expected, the ICT suspension really shines on sections like these. You
just remain seated and you can continue pedalling, which results in a
more comfy ride AND a higher speed. Great!
I noticed when I climbed
into the forest that the area was a lot wetter than yesterday, with big
puddles , some of which I could not avoid, making the bike dirty with
mud pretty soon. There had been some local yoyos rodeo-ing through the
trails with jeeps leaving the entire forest road covered with slimy mud
their tyres threw up when they hammered the waterholes. Yummie!
Nobby Nics were not concerned though, they offer great traction and,
what is even more important, also astonishing grip on offcamber
sections. I was only surprised once when my front wheel washed out on a
wet rock I did not see and I had to react with lighting speed to keep
the rubber side down. Unfortunately I was still having trouble with the
narrow-ish handlebar, which did not help my confidence in the technical
sections and also the Sram X.0 controls would never become my friends.
Those X.0 shifters are really NOT made for my hands. No matter how I
positioned my fingers, I could NOT find a position which had me
comfortably holding the handles while allowing me to brake with one
finger and be able to shift up and down without having to adjust my
fingers' position at least once. XTR lets me do just that. That is why
I have XTR on all my bikes and why I am not impressed by the X.0
I got used to the X.0 rear derailleur by now so I had no
more trouble with that. Save the fact that I am used to a Rapid Rise
XTR which had me make a couple of miss-shifts, and in some occasions
these caused me to walk. I don't like to walk!
After 22K I got to
the bottom of a long climb, a perfect place to check out the way the
Fox Float R rebound control influences the behaviour of the rear
suspension. I first rode up the climb with the rebound in the middle
position, the way I had been using it all along now. The track was very
steep and littered with wet rocks, little gullies ,pieces of wood and
other rubble. I was on the smallest gear but made the climb with no
real troubles. I then rode down the trail and started the climb all
over again, this time with the rebound in the fastest position.
Immediately the rear wheel began to behave more skitterish on the
rocks, comparable to what a hardtail would do. I did make the climb but
I had to expand some more energy to counteract the way the rear
suspension acted. The fast rebound made the wheel lose control from
time to time. Down the hill again. I put the rebound on the slowest
position and rode up that hill a third time. This went great but from
time to time I did feel the sluggish return of the shock hindered my
upward motion. After this I can only conclude that the best way for me
to climb with this shock is just put the rebound in its middle position
(it has 5 clicks) and get on with it.
After this I had to rest a
little bit on a rocky outcrop and I took some time to eat and take some
piccies. The downhills had me frown because the Reba was emitting some
hissing noises. It worked fine throughout the ride though , and I
really appreciated the remote lockout for the short tarmac sections.
Perhaps it needs some attention in the form of maintenance.
back all was cool. the 10cm of travel are more than enough for my kind
of riding and the terrains I frequent. I could not discern the rear
suspension stiffening under braking (can anyone?) so I cannot vouch for
it being active or not. I did not experience any pedal kickback on the
Another steep technical climb in the fields was coming up ,
with the wheels in some kind of gutter formed by rocks and earth, the
trail restricted by sharp thorny bushes on one side, and barbed wire on
the other. This is a real killer and the bike took it well. The wheels
went where they were supposed to go, and I could keep on pedalling .
This is not a climb most people make on their first attempt. I have of
course the advantage of knowing the trail but nevertheless I was
pleased. I was very pleased with my ride today when i arrived back at
my car after some 34K and 2hours+ of riding.
So now, the million dollar question, would I buy this bike?
the answer is ...probably yes . The Merlin Works 4.0 is a fine bike,
with a rugged, superbly finished front triangle made in my favorite
metal and with an Ellsworth ICT aluminum rear suspension triangle which
was very stiff laterally, had nice oversized bearings , a solid looking
rocker and on top of that worked just fine, allowing me to hammer
while staying seated on the trails where I otherwise would have been
standing up, losing traction and speed . The climbing performance is
similar to my Moots YBB, but offering (a lot) more travel hence faster
speeds in the downhills makes this bike considerably faster overall.
The only advantage a hardtail has would be its lighter weight. But at
11kg this Merlin is no heavyweight, it is even marginally lighter than
my current Moots build.
I would opt for the Fox RP23 damper instead of the Fox Float R, mainly because the RP23 offers more adjustability.
would throw all things SRAM far from it though . Obviously I would
choose my preferred XTR Rapid Rise rear derailleur and those heavenly
XTR shifters. The wheels performed great and I would certainly like to
try the XR1540 disc wheelset DT Swiss offers. The dics rotors were
Shimano XTR 160mm and they performed flawlessy with the Hope Mono Mini
rotors, another thing I would not change.
The Rock Shox Reba World
Cup then , yes, I have a Reba World Cup under wraps but I would set it
to 100mm because I believe this is what the bike deserves. To be
honest, the Reba performed good even in the 85mm position but I did
feel the front of the bike was too low. I fiddled some more with the
compression knob (on the remote lockout) but did not feel a lot of
change in the behaviour of the fork whilst riding. Other then that it
dived deeper during braking with lower compression, which nearly took
me by surprise once. I upped the compression considerably and left it
alone after that . The carbon/alu handlebar/stem I would of course
replace with titanium ones, and 56cm at least instead of the 54cm the
Easton EC90 was cut too. The Chris King headset can stay,obviously, and
that Ringlé Moby Deuce 31.2mm seatpost looks so sweet, I want one !
one day to go before I have to return this bike. I had a couple of good
rides on it and I think I will take it for a longer offroad ride
tomorrow, albeit with not as much hills in it as today. Unlike the bike
that can be cleaned and prepared in a few hours for its next ride, this
ole body needs more time to recuperate, no matter what bike it is on.
Pictures : CLICK
26-08-2007, 00:00 geschreven door Big Bad Wolf
|Merlin Works 4.0 testride One
Went to Filip Sport to pick up a Merlin Works 4.0 testbike kindly provided by ABG .
were two things I did not like from the start but would have to live
with. The (excellent) Rock Shox Reba Worldcup fork was set to 85mm and
not to 100mm - which would match beautifully with the bike's 100mm (4
inches) of rear suspension . Why they left it at 85 is therefore a bit
of a mystery to me. Furthermore the shifters were SRAM X0 thumbies
mounted on a carbon handlebar. That handlebar was a cm or two too
narrow for my liking. I am an XTR dude but I was secretly looking
forward to try the much-acclaimed and over-expensive X.0 combo.
rest of the bike was obviously top-notch to match its pedigree. Filip
mounted some DT Swiss wheels with DT340 hubs and the braking was with
my favorite Hope Mono Mini disc brakes, 160mm in front and rear . Rear
derailleur was a SRAM X.0 and the front derailleur was XTR. Cranks and
BB were Shimano XTR 2005, an excellent choice although I felt the
chainline was a bit off, being to the outside more than was good for
it, causing the chain to drop from the front big and middle chainrings
when shifting all the way up the cassette in the back. The headset was
a Chris King, a golden one , someone obviously knows my preferences.
Tyres were Schwalbes excellent allrounders Nobby Nic in 2.1 inch.
saddlepost was a very beautiful Ringle Moby Deuce , made from Easton
aluminum. As I already mentioned the handlebar was an Easton carbon
thingie. Stem was alu and it looked light and stiff. I put on a Flite
saddle and my Xpedo Ti/Ti pedals and weighted the bike at 11kg - give
or take a few grams . Not bad for a titanium full susser with 10cm of
titanium front trangle oozed craftmanship, and that is to be expected
from a firm like Merlin, who have over 20 years of experience with the
expensive grey metal . Made with their proprietory MTS 3/2.5 tubing the
welds are smooth and even. Very simply put a work of art and a joy to
rear triangle is made by Ellsworth and features their much-appraised
ICT (Instant Center Tracking I believe) suspension, which is basically
a 4-bar linkage job coupled to a Fox Float R pump. I put some 105psi in
it and put the red rebound knob midway. That way I had about 1cm of
sag. On the Reba front fork I put the rebound knob in the middle
position and pumped it up to 105Psi both in the upper and lower air
chamber. I haven't got a clue what the compression knob on the remote
lockout does so I also left it in its middle position. Before getting
it dirty I had a little photo session trying to capture the details of
the bike. Check the link below for the results.
ride then. I decided to take it on an easy ride to start out with, to
see if everything worked as it should and also to check if my position
on the bike was right. The bike is a 17.5" frame and I got my position
dialled in perfectly, save for the slightly narrow bars and the front
end which felt a bit low.
I started out on the Blue Meerdael BLOSO
loop and from the start I felt the comfort when the rear suspension
took the stones, cobbles and roots, effectively mellowing out the ride.
I could see the suspension work when I pedalled and I also could feel
it ever so slightly. But it did not bother me. I took some of the
meaner downhills in Meerdael forest and the bike just went where I
pointed it, with fast speed and in perfect control. The narrow bars
bothered me a bit, and I could do with a titanium stem/bar combo in
front instead of the harsh alu/carbon combination that was mounted.
did not like the X.0 shifters, they had me wriggling my fingers in all
kinds of positions, taking my concentration away from the ride.
Furthermore I did not like the way the X.0 rear derailleur shifted, it
didn't work as precise as my XTR does, although later into the ride I
learned that instead of caressing the shifters as you do with XTR, you
needed to hammer the X.0 and then they do shift crisply and correct.
the uphills I noticed immediately the bike climbed very well , even the
steepest I could find it made without any trouble. Of course since it
only weighs 11kg that was to be expected. It was well balanced and the
suspension did not work against me when pedalling up the slopes. On the
contrary, it nicely followed the terrain and let me concentrate on
powering up the hill. The Nobby Nics - being what they are, an
excellent and grippy tyre - helped as well to track precisely and offer
I rode over to Sint Agatha Rode to connect to the
Overijse Red trail, and had a blast on the tricky step downhill. Pity
another biker bailed out in front of me, which caused me to brake , but
the bike handled the dropoffs beautifully, giving me lots of
confidence. The Hope brakes, which I'm quite used to from the Moots,
are very powerful. Even with 'only' 160mm in front I had no need for
more braking power today. When I got home I noticed I used about 5/6th
of the available travel on the Float R, which I think is good. Tomorrow
or monday I plan to take the bike to the Ardennes for some 'real'
downhills and climbs.
far so good. I was pleased with the bike's handling, the meticulous
craftmanship, comfortable ride and yet very stiff rear end. I could not
fault it into twisting and turning. Even when standing on the pedals
and powering up a hill I felt no noticeable flex in the bracket or rear
suspension. A very good design it seems. I had some trouble with the
shifting , as I already mentioned the X.0 shifters are not my thing and
the chainline was not optimal causing the chain to drop a couple of
times when I was crossing it too much. I would have loved 100mm in
front but even with 85mm, the Reba performed flawlessly, stiff and
precise steering are a given with this fork. Some more dialling-in is
needed to make it perform a little less harsh on the small stuff. Or I
could opt for a titanium stem/handlebar to mellow out the little
vibrations. That is the setup I use on my bikes. Gave the bike a quick
once-over when I got home , brushed off a few specks of mud and it's
ready to go for another ride.
I want to kindly thank M. Van Doorn at American Bicycle Group for lending me this bike.
Also thanks to Filip at Filip Sport for providing me with the missing parts.
Some pictures can be found here (CLICK) .
Ride Stats : 43.5K and 525 heightmeters in 2h11mins
25-08-2007, 00:00 geschreven door Big Bad Wolf
Yes, a day without rain , the sun even shone when I arrived home from work. Quickly on the bike and away I went for a spin around the Haasrode tour, one of my favorite road rides which takes me along Hoegaarden and L'Ecluse, with some fine landscapes. I cut the tour short at Pietrebais and rode home over Hamme Mille.
At last I will get to test the Merlin Works 4.0 titanium full suspension bike. Since the end of last year I had been asking Marijn van Doorn, from American Bicycle Group, to testride this expensive bike. I contacted him again a few days ago and he agreed to send the bike over to Filip Sport, where it now awaits final assembly.
Should be ready next saturday. I will test it extensively and see how the Ellsworth ICT rear suspension performs. Maybe my search for a full suspension is at an end, maybe not, we'll see how the bike performs.
Ride Stats : 53K and 380 heightmeters in 2h09mins
23-08-2007, 19:14 geschreven door Big Bad Wolf
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